Incubator Blogs: Markus Raivio — Impactful projects around the world

The TREMOR mentor is one of Finland's leading social innovators, and has been at the forefront of both advocating for change as well as creating it through his many organisations.

Hello, and welcome to another addition to our series of blog posts introducing the mentors behind incubator programmes. This post was made to promote the first edition of our social impact incubator programme, TREMOR. In today's post, we're speaking with Markus Raivio.

After a year-long evaluation process, Kukunori co-founder Markus Raivio was selected as Finland's first Ashoka Fellow in 2022. Raivio, who has created cultural workshops that support the well-being of people with mental health problems, among other things, joins more than 3,800 leading social entrepreneurs from around the world. The network includes Jimmy Wales, creator of Wikipedia, and Nobel Prize-winning microfinance developer Muhammad Yunus. We caught up with Markus to find out what social entrepreneurship is.

Creating a social enterprise to meet modern needs

Kukunori is a social enterprise with a business model that represents 43 mental health, substance abuse and developmental disability advocacy organisations. It also owns Ikinori, a transformation agency that provides training, communication and change design processes. The business’ purpose isn't to generate a profit for shareholders, but to provide resources for future operations.

"We saw that a modern association must be a hybrid: a solid civic base combined with the sale and development of services. Impact is at the heart of the work. It's also about recognising responsibility,” Markus explained emphatically. “Responsible leadership includes the ability to identify challenges and see potential pitfalls. Responsibility requires the courage to highlight shortcomings even at moments when it would be easier to throw up your hands and give up. I believe that social impact is also about strong communication and networking. My own leadership is centered around building collaboration and trust."

A growing organisation – for good

Kukunori's strategy is to do things differently from others - or to do the same things differently - with the vision of bringing people and organisations together to build a new culture of well-being. As a social enterprise, Kukunori not only has extensive international networks at home, but also collaborates on joint projects around the world. As a development organisation, Kukunori wants to create something new and unique, and it seems that the strategy has worked, as turnover has grown strongly as have staff numbers.

"It is certainly not the goal. We are not scaling up the organisation, but the innovations we have developed and the operating models we have developed,” assured Markus.

At the moment, Kukunori is working hard on scaling up its operating models. The cultural workshop model for young adults with mental health problems has gained a lot of ground in Finland and Kukunori's member organisations have already set up cultural workshops in 17 different municipalities. The global scalability of the model is also a significant consideration.

"We are committed to working hard over the next few years to achieve this, while simultaneously learning how to do it. Ashoka will be a great support to us in this. The sky is the limit,” Markus mused.

Mentoring to help grow the social innovation field

Markus joined the TREMOR social entrepreneurship incubator programme as a mentor because he wants to support the Finnish social innovation ecosystem.

"Social innovations have the potential to create big changes, like reducing the carbon footprint of consumers in terms of housing, transport, food and other consumption. In many cases, improving people's well-being and inclusion also promotes environmental sustainability, such as by fostering a sharing economy and community spirit."

Social innovations respond to an existing need and thus do not create an artificial need for a product or service, i.e., a consumer's desire to buy a product or service that is not really needed.

"Companies that have sustainability at their core and are able to communicate it clearly will perform the best. For many companies, giving most of their financial success back to the social good is no longer a cost or compensation for profits, but an integral part of the whole business idea. That's how value is shared."

As a pioneer of sustainable and responsible mental health work, it is important to share Markus' ideas. Asked for a comment to the potential TREMOR participants, Markus explained: "I believe that the organisations that are able to have compassion for people will be the successful organisations of the future. I wish you the courage to see the prospects for a better world for all."